Ask the Sex Therapist! More Dating Don’ts

Written by Dr. Dianna Palimere.

Dating Do's and Don'tsAs the resident sex therapist for Living Well Magazine (in my head, not in reality), I feel compelled to help readers as best I can, whenever they reach out to me.
After receiving several questions from LWM readers in response to my article “Missteps on the Path to Finding Love” (LWM September 2015) Primarily, readers wrote to me asking for more dating advice about ‘what not to do.’ Email after email, readers shared their experiences and asked my advice. A pattern emerged: I was being asked very similar questions, despite the differences of the individual’s specific experiences and demographics (age, sex, etc.).
Below are two of the more common questions, followed by my list of general “dating don’ts.”
Q:
I’m newly divorced after being married for almost 20 years. I’ve bought several books about dating and I’ve worked on sticking to “the rules.” I have gone on a few dates, but everything is so different now. Do you have dating suggestions for someone who’s been out of the game for so long?
A:
The fact that you’re trying to learn and you’ve had the courage to put yourself out there is a very good start! The first piece of advice I have: Don’t think of dating as a game. Yes, I know that many of the books on dating have “rules” and “tricks” to help you “get the one you want.” There’s a reason why pick-up artists aren’t called relationship artists, and it’s because they’ve only mastered the art of seduction. Seduction only gets someone so far (and it usually ends in the bedroom). The tips and tricks that people use are nothing more than manipulation games. It’s all an illusion and eventually the other person will see through it.
If you’re looking for a serious relationship, don’t date like it’s a game. Be the most authentic version of yourself that you can be. After all, that’s the person that they’re going to end up with if they want to be in a long-term relationship. In my opinion, it’s better to just be yourself and find someone who genuinely likes you for who you are, rather than pretending to be someone you’re not, and lose them later because you’re not who they thought you were.
Q:
I’m not into bars or clubs and I can’t stand dating websites. I feel like if I’m just patient, eventually I’ll find ‘the one.’ I’ve been single for a little over three years and I’m tired of spending Saturday nights alone. Do you have any advice?
A:
While I admire your patience, I caution you to reflect on the difference between “patience” and “waiting.” When one is being patient, they have put forth effort for something to come to fruition, and now they are calmly awaiting the results. When one is waiting, they are passively putting their life in the hands of some kind of other (e.g., fate, God, the Universe, etc.). They’re waiting for life to produce a result, when they have not actively participated in the steps necessary for its creation. If you’re waiting for “the one” to just fall into your lap, don’t. Outside of romantic comedies and romance novels, this rarely ever happens in real life.
What are you doing to actively meet someone? My advice is this: Do things you enjoy, even if you have to do them alone. Find new and interesting hobbies, outside of your home. Challenge yourself to try something new, go to new places, or try to learn something new. Bottom line: You must be an active participant in your own life. Put effort into engaging in activities where you’ll be meeting new people, while being patient along the way.

General Dating Don’ts
  • Don’t ignore “red flags.” Follow your intuition and pay attention to your gut feelings. If something feels “off” there is generally a reason and it’s usually not good.
  • Don’t “act like you don’t care.” Being aloof is not the same as being confident. Confidence is attractive. Being cocky, distant, or standoffish is not attractive.
  • Don’t date someone because you can see their “potential.” See them for who they are right now. If that isn’t someone you want to be with, be honest with yourself (and them).
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. Ask them questions to learn more about their history and life experiences. Listen to them; don’t just wait to respond.
  • Don’t try to fix them…or heal them. Refer them to a good therapist, and move on. If it’s meant to be, they’ll get back in touch with you when they’ve done the work to be a healthier person.
  • Don’t make excuses for poor behavior. Pay attention to how they behave and listen to their words. They’re likely telling you everything you need to know.
  • Don’t respond to texts, emails, etc., while on a date. Put down your phone and give the person your undivided attention.
  • Don’t analyze every word in a text message in an effort to divine a deeper meaning.
  • Don’t stalk the person via social media (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Tumblr, Instagram, etc.).
  • Don’t stalk their “exes” via social media (see above examples).
  • Don’t just cut off all communication if you’re no longer interested (a.k.a., ghosting). Be an adult and end it verbally; or at the very least in an email (NOT a text).
  • Don’t hold on to past mistakes. Learn from them and move on.
  • Don’t hurt the person in front of you because you’re still carrying pain from a previous relationship.
  • Don’t feed your fears. Fear of rejection, fear of abandonment, fear of getting hurt…getting stuck in these fears becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
  • Don’t convince yourself that “if you can get someone this great, there might be someone even better out there.” As long as you’re not “settling” for less than you want and need, be grateful that you found someone so great!
  • Don’t believe that you only have one “type.” Explore the possibility that amazing people come in all shapes, sizes, and/or skin tones.
  • Don’t give yourself to someone who doesn’t deserve you.
  • Don’t make someone a priority, if all you are to them is an option (quote by Maya Angelou).
  • Last, but certainly not least…
  • Don’t limit yourself with the belief that there’s only one person on the planet (i.e., a soulmate) that can make you happy. Oh wait, there is only one person that can make you happy…it’s YOU!
I wish you all the best on your dating journeys!
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